The first entertainment I found here was not at the Racetrack, but SPAC. For those of you who made their first pilgrimage to Saratoga Performing Arts Center for a rock concert in their teen years, I share your history. SPAC is a good way to start. If you grew up in a small, fairly boring town with no compelling reason for tourists to visit, SPAC seemed like a mecca, a musical shrine where certain Performers returned year after year to the sacred amphitheatre with a gushing waterfall in the background and starry July or August skies overhead, to spill their sounds out to a hillside full of listeners and party people. I had heard about legendary concerts there for a few years in advance of ever being able to go, growing up 45 miles away. I never saw The Doors there, or The Who, when more than 35,000 fans were crammed into the place. I never went to any Dead shows there, early or latter day.
No, my first show was Emerson, Lake & Palmer...a likely long-forgotten British band that featured Greg Lake (formerly of King Crimson) singing lead vocals-- the most notable lyrics being appropriate years later... playing the part of the pitch-man at The Circus:
"Welcome Back My Friends, to the Show That Never Ends...!!!"
As a naive 16 year old, hunched under a blanket with my girlfriend, it was a dazzling display, better than any circus. Swirling keyboards form Keith Emerson, strobe lights shooting outward through rising clouds of CO2 fog, thundering drums
and soaring guitars from amps cranked to the max in the middle of a forested park with no neighbors likely to complain about the noise-- this was legal?? There were couples writhing in the grass doing apparently whatever they wanted with each other. The spirit of Woodstock seemed...for a few hours at least...to be available to those of us just a bit too young to have enjoyed it the first time around. Bacchanalia
was in the air, and the car ride back to Ravena, NY was full of wonderment at what we had just witnessed. Was it like that ALL THE TIME in Saratoga?? What an amazing place...
The next year, the only concert I could get a ride to happened to be another little-known band (at the time) who went by the strange (at the time) name of
PINK FLOYD. This would have been the year just before Dark Side of the Moon
was released... when the sax-line of MONEY was on every radio in America. This band was a different experience altogether; instead of bombast and roller-rink organ, Pink Floyd gave you a mystical hallucinogenic groove that seemed to meander for hours on each tune-- I dimly recall the lyrics... "Set the controls...for the Heart of the Sun, the Heart of the Sun... the heart of the Sun..." They were playing, for the most part, spacey music from an album I would later realize was called Saucer Full of Secrets. But when they broke into the unreleased MONEY, with its searing, piercing sax riffs, and a bassline that was recognizable ever after, you knew this would be a SONG you would remember above all others of the evening-- we did NOT know however, that their next album, with that tune on it, would become a fixture on Billboards Top 100 for the next TWENTY YEARS. Forty years later, the poster from that album cover can still be found in dorm rooms and dusty bohemian apartments across America.
Later I would see Santana a few times, Crosby/Stills/& Nash, Bob Dylan's various incarnations, Fleetwood Mac, Talking Heads, Tom Petty, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Mahavishnu John MacLaughlin, and Miles Davis on that same stage... and about 80-90 other concerts plus countless Jazz Festivals over the years... more on those "some other time." The point is, whatever else happened later on, my first impression of Saratoga Springs itself were those concerts at SPAC, and it colored my experience with the thrill of live music, viewed in a stellar, and, I repeat, sacred environment.
During one of those rides back home, while I was on a break from college and first starting to think of such things, I pondered... "Saratoga is such a cool place to visit; wouldn't it be great to LIVE there??!"
That's what this blog is going to be about, my friends-- it's now been 35 years, more or less, that I've made this my permanent address, and chose to raise my family here,
and this is... what it's like to love a place like this.
Thanks for reading, more soon...